Through time, numerous innovations have been invented that made life more convenient. Some may be as complex as the Internet, others may be as simple as the coat hanger.
When it comes to humble yet very useful inventions of all time, the coat hanger has to be one of the most widely embraced implements.
Take a look at this albeit humble device’s origins and just how much, or how little, the coat hanger has evolved over the years.
Whilst there is an element of debate regarding who actually invented the coat hanger, with some historians believing that it was Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and main author of the Declaration of Independence who invented a forerunner to the wooden clothes hanger, it is widely cited that the traditional wire clothes hanger was invented in 1869.
Whilst several individuals have been accredited to this timeless device, the vast majority of the credit falls at the feet of Albert J. Parkhouse, an employee of the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company, which specialised in making lampshade frames made out of wire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The story goes that Parkhouse arrived one morning at work and found that all of hooks provided to hang coats were occupied. This inspired the young inventor to design a hanger out of wire by bending two large oblong hoops opposite one another and twisting both ends in the centre into a hook.
The story continues that the company loved Parkhouse’s design and took out a patent for it. Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company subsequently made a fortune out of the wire coat hangers and Albert J. Parkhouse never received a penny.
In 1907, a more sophisticated version of the original was attributed to Timberlake’s son, which was named a ‘shirt drier,’ and was used to hang clothes after they had been washed in order to create fewer wrinkles.
Around the time, wishbone-inspired hangers started to be retailed, primarily by Meyer May, a men’s tailor in Michigan, although it was not until the 1930s, when the original design was finally modified and improved when designer Schuyler C. Hullett added cardboard tubes to the hanger to minimise the amount of wrinkles even more.
It has to be said that whilst the coat hanger has been modified and improved over the decades, the basic design has changed very little since Albert J. Parkhouse flippantly put two wires together to create a hook in order to hang his coat up at work in the late 19th century.
Today coat hangers come in many shapes, sizes and colours, some traditional, others retro, and some innovative and playful. The essential design and ultimate purpose does, however, remain uncannily similar to Parkhouse’s humble wire coat hanger in 1869.
About the Author
Gemma Brookes is an interior designer who has a rather special and unique collection of coat hangers. Gemma writes about her experiences of the interior design world for several sites including, www.cultfurniture.com.